Introduction: How to Build Up a Bike

Picture of How to Build Up a Bike

This is a guide to building up a bike from parts. It should help you get the parts and tools you need to get you pedalling along in no time. It assumes that you have tinkered with your bike, but are not an expert. Hope it helps!


Step 1: Parts

Picture of Parts

Here is a list of parts you'll need:
Rear derailleur
Front derailleur (optional)
Brake Levers
Cable guide
2 x derailleur cables
2 x brake brakes
4' derailleur housing
4' brake housing
bottom bracket
seat post
seat clamp
brake hangers front / rear if you use cantilever brakes

I got most of this from Redstone Cyclery

Step 2: Tools

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chain tool
allen keys
wire cutters
pedal wrench
nuts/bolts (or headset press)
adjustable wrench
bottom bracket tool
screw driver

Step 3: Seat Post.

Picture of Seat Post.

Insert the seat clamp, then the post. Grease the heck out of the part of the post that will be in the frame to keep it from rusting together. Then put the seat on.

I then clamp it in the bike stand using the post, but thats up to you...

Step 4: Install Headset

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Install the headset first. I install the cups using a large bolt, some washers and a nut. The presses it in to place. There is also another instructable I put on here that details the exact process for this step if you are not familiar.

Grease the cups up, then press the race on. I bang it on with a adjustable wrench.

Step 5: Fork

Picture of Fork

Ok put the headset together, grease the bearings, put your stem and any spacers you are going to use on the fork and make a mark with a marker. This is where you are going to cut the steerere tube. NOTE If you have a threaded stem, then just try not to cut it, make it easier, just use some spacers.

Step 6: Cut It Loose

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So now you take that fork out and cut it about 3mm below the mark you just made.

I used a steerer tube cutting guide, but you can use a zip tie to mark the spot and cut it with a hack saw. Remeber measure twice cut once, cause you can't stretch a steerer tube.

Step 7: Star Fangled Nut

Picture of Star Fangled Nut

Now you have to drive in the star fangled nut. I thread it on the bolt. Then use a hammer and tap it in about 1cm.

Step 8: Put It Back Together

Ok, put it back together.

Tighten the top cap until its snug, but not too tight. Then tighten down the stem. You'll check it later.

Step 9: Bottom Bracket

Picture of Bottom Bracket

Insert the bottom bracket.

Grease up the threads. The drive side is REVERSE threaded. Don't forget it goes backwards.

Start it by threading it in by hand. Don't use the tool yet.

Step 10: Tighten the Bb

Picture of Tighten the Bb

Now its time to use the tool and tighten the bottom bracket. Tighten the drive side, then the non drive side.

The drive side will sit snug against the bottom bracket shell. The non drive side may not go all the way in. But it should go in most of the way.

Step 11: Cranks

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Put the cranks on. I am a follower of the "no grease" school of thought when it comes to the cranks. But do what works for you. I tighten the hell out of the cranks, you should to.

Step 12: Pedals

Picture of Pedals

to put your pedals on, grease the threads. On the pedals, the non drive side is reverse threaded. Most pedals use a 15mm wrench to install.

Step 13: Cable Guide

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I needed to install a cable guide on the bottom of the bb shell.

Step 14: Derailleur

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I am going with no front der because this is my commuter. So I just put on the rear. Go slow, make sure you don't cross thread it here, its just an easy spot for that...

Step 15: Brakes

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i am using cantilever brakes. So I'll use the middle hole for the spring tension, its a good guess. You might have to use a different hole though. This is a thing based on preference as well as trial and error. But middle is a good choice.

Step 16: Chain

Picture of Chain

Time to put on the chain. Use the largest gear in the back, and the largest in the front, make sure you have just enough chain to spin smoothly.

Use your chain tool to drive the pin through.

Then use the inner step to loosen the link up by giving it bout 1/8 of a turn.

Step 17: Kinky

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if your chain is stiff and looks like this, repeat the last step again to loosen it up.

Step 18: Cables

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You need to cut the cable housing for your brakes and shifters.

The key thing here is to make sure you have enough housing so it won't bind and keep your bar from turning all the way. Also make sure it does not interfere with the brakes, thats no good.

See how I have the bars turned as far as they will go and I'm holding the housing against the cable stop? Thats the way to do it.

Step 19: Rear Cable

Picture of Rear Cable

The rear der needs a small loop of housing, like shown here. Two short and it won't shift all of your gears.

Step 20: Tuning

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So you can run your cables to your brakes and derailleur now. When setting the rear one up you want to first set the limits.

There are two screws on the back of the derailleur, the lower one is the inner (biggest) gear and the higher one is the outter, Remember this "Linner Houtter".
By setting the limits you keep the chain from going up into the spokes or down in to space between the dropout and the smallest gear.

Then you can fine tune your derailleur by using the barrell adjuster. The key is to get the teeth on the pulley to line up with the teeth of the gear you are suposed to be in.

Step 21: Knock

Picture of Knock

So at tis point you should pretty much have a built bike. But we need to make sure the headset is tight. So put the bike on the ground, grab the front brake and move the bike back and forth, do you notice any knock in the headset? If so, loosen the stem, tighten the top cap until the knock goes away, then tighten the stem back up.

Step 22: Test It

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You should be ready to test ride it now. Double check everything is tight, check the brakes, the cables, the bar and the stem.

Ride it and have fun.

Step 23: Commuting

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So I built this up for commuting to work on.

Some of the things I added were lights and fenders, but most importantly I added pinhead locking skewers. They use a fancy keyed removable quick release. I don't want my wheels or seat jacked...


GeorgeL6 (author)2015-02-05

Great! Very helpful

YellowRex (author)2012-02-23

Sweet ride!

Thanks for the guide. I'm considering building up my own bike using a Velo Orange Polyvalent frame and internal gearing. I was worried about the headset and bottom bracket installation, but you made it look not too bad in your pictures.

Have you considered bash guards or a chain guard? I have a single chainring commuter too, and I'm about to try to install a VO chain guard after work today. I think it should work fine, since it mounts to the chain stay in the rear. I'm also considering bash guards on either side of the chainring to keep the chain on. I've had some problems with losing my chain after hitting a nasty bump or shifting too much.

joe (author)YellowRex2012-02-24

I use a chain gaurd on almost all of my bikes. I like the Spot Brand.

I also have used a Paul's Chain Keeper:

I use the Paul's on my 1x9 mtn bike. It works nicely.

I actually tried a VO chain gaurd about 5 years ago on a bike, but I had not luck with getting it to work. However it was just a NOS one from the 60s that VO was selling. I imagine their newer ones are very nice.


bobbyderf123 (author)2010-03-22

wouldn't greasing it make it want to slide around in the frame?

YellowRex (author)bobbyderf1232012-02-23

Bobby, if you don't grease it, it will eventually rust and seize up in the frame. Then both the frame and the seat post will be ruined. No one other than you (including potentially you in the future, if you gain or lose weight) will be able to adjust the bicycle to fit them properly.

The seat post is held in place by appropriate tension on the clamp, not friction inside the seat tube.

bowmaster (author)2011-05-29

How would this vary for a combo street/mountain bike?

mark145 (author)2010-04-19

the pictures look very and the instructions to build the cycle look easy enough i have just joined the web site and still cannot print the instructions so i'll look elswhere for a better user friendly website where it doesn't take as much time to print the instrutions as it does to build the bike

fogman103 (author)mark1452011-05-28

I'm pretty sure that you have to be a member to print instructions, but I think it would be worth it.

gmanguy 11 (author)2011-04-15

i get my parts from but thats not for mountain bikesits BMX bikes

Arlys (author)2010-07-01

WARNING! If you are installing an aluminum alloy crank on a tapered steel axle bottom bracket you should never ever "tighten the hell out of the crank" or lubricate the tapered joint since excessive tightening/torque will distort the aluminum crank arm taper and create noticeable play in the crank arm joint which will produce annoying crank arm slip on every rotation of the crank arms under load in high gear. If you've already damaged the tapered joint by over tightening the crank arm bolts, a temporary fix is to shim the tapered joint with thin tempered aluminum alloy sheet (not aluminum foil) to eliminate play. Ultimately, you may need to replace the crank arms since the damaged tapered joints will continue to distort under load over time. (Note: This is not an issue if you have a crank that does not have a tapered steel axle or have an inexpensive crank with steel crank arms.)

yaman.cool63 (author)Arlys2011-02-20

According to Park Tool and FSA, a traditional aluminum crankarm with and M8 bolt will need about 350 N-m of torque, which is essentially tighening the hell out of them. Besides, how often do you need to take off an alu crank?

sharlston (author)2009-11-25

what thread size is the star flanged bolt in the steerer tube thing becuse ive lost my screw and need a new one but i cant find the right size


killsmechadead (author)2007-08-13

The difference between presta and schrader valves: Schrader has a spring enclosed inside the valve which closes off the flow of air automatically whenever the plunger is not depressed. Presta valves do not close automatically. The plunger needs to be screwed down manually to keep air from escaping at low pressure. In all my experience, I have never seen any substantial difference between the two valves. Schrader valves are often thought of as "mountain-only" and presta as "road-only." I have presta valves on all my bikes, even the mountain bike. If you're interested in switching any presta-drilled rim into a schrader-drilled rim, all that is required is a 5/16" drill bit (and a drill, presumably).

sharlston (author)killsmechadead2009-11-16

not true because a schrader is used o cars,bmxs and fixies not just mtbs

Metrokillah (author)2007-02-14

Totally agree with the locking skewers! I once went to pickup my girlfriends bike from a friends house where she had left it. I cycled about half a mile across a links style golf course here in Edinburgh and when I arrived at the pub and lifted the bike on to the railings/fence to lock it, both wheels comedically fell off! Some prankster had removed the skewers and left the wheels. I am pretty sure that some deity was smiling on me that night because I usually take every opportunity to catch some air off a bunker or slope. I now do quick bike checks everytime i get on one.

sharlston (author)Metrokillah2009-11-16

it would of been hard for the back wheel to fall of becuse of the chain

LOL. I'm gonna do this to my mate. every ten weeks i do something to his bike. Also stealing someones seat can be fun...

Yerboogieman (author)Metrokillah2008-10-09

i did that to a jerk at school, it sucks when it happens but i had a good reason.

benmorrow4 (author)Metrokillah2008-01-16

i'm just glad the wheels weren't stolen! most people that steal components would revel in the idea of a free wheelset. nut those things up!

trebuchet03 (author)2006-09-30

Nice write up... I wish I had the money to buy the parts I wanted :P But if I had the money, I'd probably just save for a 'bent :D

sharlston (author)trebuchet032009-10-22

just go to the scrapyrd thats what i do

haruspex (author)2009-09-30

Had this problem this morning before heading out on my ride. I wasn't sure the proper way to fix it, but remembered it being mentioned in this article. In a few minutes my headset was as good as new. Thanks!

rayraybaybay (author)2009-09-16

why does your chain lock have about 8 that not very smart :(

rayraybaybay (author)2009-09-16

nice lol i am in school reading this laughing...

rayraybaybay (author)2009-09-16

that is pretty good i agree with 52? . . . but anyways is there a way you could upload a bike to where it was automatic but yet children under 16 could still drive it????? thanks, get back at meeee...

rayraybaybay (author)2009-09-16

i dont think it will work out i would get one a tid bit smaller that ones a little large but nice work so far

=] thanks,

rayraybaybay (author)2009-09-16

thanks for all the help and support i have been working on my 7 bikes and my lasted one i haven't been able to get it just right i first put it on backwards then i lost apiece so anyways thanks for all the moral support do you know if you would put a weedeater motor on a bike and adjusted it and threw on some better breaks do you think it would work?

chim_richolds (author)2009-07-11

Nice snot mark! (my sleeves always look like that too)

52 (author)2009-04-16

that is y u do good the frist time

frogmeetcog (author)2009-01-11

This occurred to me a while ago when a friend had her wheel skewers stolen (wheels were locked and intact): I now keep two lengths of copper housing wire wrapped around my toptube. The plastic insulation makes the stuff just fit through my hollow axles, for an emergency skewer improvisation to get me home. Never had to use it, but if I had to I would put one length per wheel and wrap the remaining wire around the forkblades/seatstays, and ride carefully. Coathanger would work too, though the bare steel would rust quicklike.

zzpza (author)2007-09-10

i use a pipe cutter (the clamp type). cheap and effective. also, there's no swarf created in the process. :)

jwbtravel (author)2007-04-24

To save some dough, some pedals dont need a pedal wrench. I had some shimano SPD pedals that took an allen wrench on the back side and a pedal wrench where most pedals do, negating the need for a pedal wrench. My crank brothers candy-c pedals arent designed to work with a pedal wrench at all; they only work w/ allen wrench.

machula (author)2007-02-26

hah nice, crankbrothers' eggbeaters :) one of the best somebody was asking about the presta and schrader valves, well, the presta is often called french valve and it is thinner than the schrader, to pump it, you must loose the tiny top "nut", tiping it to the side releases air. the schrader valve is thicker, and used only with mtb tires, it has a tiny bolt inside that is pressed inside the valve when air is pumped. thus the two require different pump extensions. so that's basically it

jongscx (author)2007-02-07

Just a friendly reminder...

I found that out the hard way while I sailed through the air after needing to use a flower-patch as a brake assist. Brake cable housing is kinda like a slinky and is basically a wire that is wound in a spring-like manner, then coated with plastic. The wires in a Deraileur housing are parallel. If you put the same amount of stress that is required to stop a bike on a deraileur housing... it will fail and you will have no brakes.

Just a friendly warning.

Also, anyone want to say something about the difference between presta and schraeder valves?

Coolness at it's best! I'm not exactly sure what standard shop practice is, but I have always used a pipe cutter to cut the steerer tube (and handlebars, and seat posts when necessary). The cut end is sooo much neater, and cleaner. They're relatively cheap, a lot less effort to use, and guarantee a perfectly square, smooth cut.

kiteracer (author)2006-11-02

Here's a great springtime garage project. Thanks for lowering instructions to the lowest common denominator, a.k.a. my brain.

sportcrazy (author)2006-10-28

Great write up! Like trebuchet it's too expensive for me - those darn shops just get great dealer prices on stuff.

I priced a self-built Surly Cross Check with Shimano 105 components _and tools_ at about € 1,600 (USD $2000). It's prohibitively expensive, the same from the LBS is a lot less.

If you want to compare components and costing details they're broken down further at:

For me going 105 would be crazy when Ultegra is so little more!


parsnip2341 (author)2006-10-10

Small world. I was admiring this very bike when it was parked outside the CIC at CMU today.....

joe (author)parsnip23412006-10-13

Hah, thats cool, I'm up on the third floor... every day. Now that it's been raining I have been sneaking it in the building. -Joe

TheCheese9921 (author)2006-10-01

very cool I've always thought about geting a ton of curbside,college,bike parts ect. and building them into one custome ride

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to tinker with just about anything, sometimes it works out in the end. Have fun looking at the projects, try tearing something open ... More »
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